On Saturday May 7, 2016, the Friends of Anne Arundel County Trails, the Anne Arundel Community College Astronomy Club, the Astrophysics Science and Planetary Science Divisions of the NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center and the Universities Space Research Association have teamed up to offer a day of public programs focusing on our solar system.

The events will include a Planet Walk on the Baltimore & Annapolis Trail and an illustrated evening presentation at Anne Arundel Community College, followed by a Stargazing Party at the AACC Observatory.

RSVP for Planet Walk

  • Saturday May 7, 2016 at 10am
  • Attendance and parking are free for all events

Schedule
The events will kick off at 10:00 am with a Planet Walk along a 4.7-mile segment of the B&A Trail between Glen Burnie and Severna Park. This segment of the Trail features two sculptures and ten planet stations representing the Sun and the planets of the Solar System, with each station spaced at each planet’s proportional distance from the Sun. These sculptural stainless steel markers have been placed to mark the relative location of that planet site along the route. Between 10:00 am and 2:30 pm, planetary scientists and astronomers from NASA/Goddard, area colleges and universities and local astronomy clubs will be at each of the planet stations to provide additional information about that planet and to answer questions.

Participants
Participants can walk or bicycle the 4.7-mile course between the Sun Sculpture, located just south of Aquahart Road behind Harundale Plaza in Glen Burnie and the Pluto sculpture, located just north of the Earleigh Heights Road Ranger Station in Severna Park. Parking is located adjacent to the beginning of the Planet Walk in Glen Burnie. It is recommended that participants start at the Sun Station. This event will be cancelled in the event of heavy rain. For participants seeking a shorter or less time-consuming experience, the six planets between the Sun and Saturn can be visited in the first 1 1/4 miles of the Planet Walk between Harundale Plaza and Marley Station Mall.

Evening Events
Special evening events are also scheduled at Anne Arundel Community College’s Arnold campus. At 7:30 pm an illustrated program will be presented in Annex A, Room 101. Annex A is located at the south end of Parking Lot A. Mark Kochte of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory will give a presentation titled “New Horizons – the Adventure to Pluto” which will reflect new research and photography from that mission’s 2015 flyby. Mr. Kochte is a Mission Analyst for New Horizon’s 9.5 year voyage to Pluto.

Following the presentation, there will be a question and answer session as well as drawings for the daytime Planet Walk raffle. Raffle entries are available to all Planet Walk participants who complete the 4.7-mile planetary journey. This indoor multimedia program will be presented regardless of weather conditions.

Following that presentation, beginning at 8:30 pm, the AACC Astronomy Club will host a Stargazing Party at the College Observatory. The Observatory is located outside Parking Lot B on the Arnold campus. Participants will have the opportunity to use the Observatory’s telescopes with the assistance of Astronomy Club members and may also bring their own telescopes. The Stargazing Party will be cancelled in the event that overcast conditions or inclement weather prevent making celestial observations.

The activities of May 7 will give participants a chance to gain greater insight into the makeup of our solar system as well as to learn about some of the ongoing research which has brought us new and exciting revelations and amazing photography of Pluto and its moons.

Distance Chart

Sun to Pluto Distance: 3,670,000,000 miles
Length of Planet Walk: 4.7 miles
Scale: 1 Planet Walk mile represents 781,000,000 miles

distance-chart-planet-walk

About Planet Walk

One of the unique features of the B&A Trail is the inclusion of a Planet Walk stretching between Glen Burnie and Severna Park. This 4.7 mile segment of the trail includes monuments to the Sun and each of the planets of our solar system from Mercury to Pluto, each located at its proportional distance from the Sun. On the B&A Planet Walk, each actual mile represents a distance of 781,000,000 miles. Walking or bicycling the Planet Walk, it is easy to grasp the relative proximity of the planets, with distances between them measured in hundredths of a mile for Earth’s closest neighbors, while in the outer solar system, the distances between planets stretch to nearly 1.3 miles.

The Planet Walk was the vision of Stan Lebar, the first president of the Friends of Anne Arundel County Trails. Stan worked in the aerospace industry and led the design team which produced the miniature TV camera which accompanied America’s astronauts on their first lunar landing mission.

The Planet Walk starts just south of Aquahart Road in Glen Burnie, MD at the appropriately-named Lebar Plaza. There a twenty-six foot high sculpture representing the Sun was erected in 2004. Judy Sutton Moore of Silver Spring, MD was the sculptor for this and the other sculptures and monuments of the Planet Walk. Smaller intermediate monuments mark the planet locations, each engraved with that planet’s distance from the Sun. The final sculpture, representing Pluto and the lesser planets, is located behind a small plaza located just north of Earleigh Heights Road in Severna Park.

Each Spring, a day is set aside to provide the public with more detailed information about our solar system. Planetary scientists and astronomers staff tables at each planet location, answering questions as well as dispensing literature about each planet and conducting activities. In the evening, a related program is presented at Anne Arundel Community College’s Arnold campus, followed by a public viewing at the AACC Observatory. Details about this event are posted each spring on this website.